Friday, September 21, 2012

Braddock's New Battlefield History Center

From the pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a little over a month ago: "The Battle of the Monongahela, in which French and Indians rained musket fire on British soldiers and killed Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock, lasted three hours on July 9, 1755.  The battle to build a museum dedicated to this major military engagement lasted 17 years and was waged by a lone lawyer from Blackridge, who volunteered all of his time and energy. Braddock's Battlefield History Center at 609 Sixth St. in North Braddock opens to the public today."  Today, by the way, was August 18th.
Robert T. Messner, the lawyer and history buff in question, managed to prevail upon the generosity of local foundations, scrounge together some funding and a collection of about 300 artifacts and artworkds, and transformed an abandoned auto dealership in an economically-depressed community to a 5000 sq ft. museum, the Braddock's Battlefield History Center.  They have a modest but respectable web presence here.  It is an entirely volunteer-based enterprise, of which Messner remains the director and "principal volunteer".  Well done, or, as we say in French, "Chapeau"! 

My enthusiasm for this museum is somewhat dampened, I must confess, by onomastics.  Is it too soon, I wonder, to suggest a name change?  Indeed, "Braddock's Battlefield History Center" strikes me as excessively Anglo-American-centric (and leaves me wondering to what extent the center's interpretive contents sin along the same lines).  Wouldn't the "Battle of the Monongahela History Center" be more fitting?  It seems to me that referring to the name shared by the river and battle, rather than to the name of the tragically inept commander-in-chief of the defeated force, would reflect a better balance between British, French, and Aboriginal perspectives on the event.  Better balance = better history.     

In related Braddockian news, the "Braddock Stone" will be finding a new home at the Frostburg Museum in Frostburg, Maryland.  Dating, according to tradition, to the time of the ill-fated expedition, and used as a roadway marker through the eighteenth century, this five foot tall engraved boulder was until recently forgotten in storage at Frostburg State University.

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